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Katrina survivor's murder remains unsolved

July 5, 2010 8:14:34 PM PDT
A family of Hurricane Katrina transplants moved to Oakland to start over, but that dream was shattered when their 17-year-old daughter happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was murdered eight months ago and police have not solved the case. And those who may have witnessed the murder, are not talking.

Desiree Davis' grandfather was a famous bebop era jazz trumpeter who played alongside Miles Davis. Her father, a famous saxophonist. Even as a baby, Desiree could not escape her gift.

"She's been singing ever since that time and she sang all the time," said mother Dru Ann Davis.

Desiree and her family did manage to escape Hurricane Katrina, barely. Her mother's New Orleans business and the family's dreams were washed away in the flood.

Oakland was a place to start over, or so they thought. It was Labor Day last year on a sunny afternoon. Neighbors were outside barbequing and enjoying the holiday when the normally quiet north Oakland neighborhood was rocked by gunshots.

"She just blurted out, 'Des got shot in the head and she's dead,' and I don't even remember what happened after that," said sister Taii Davis.

"I just stood straight up," said Desiree's mother. "You don't even know what you're doing. I stood straight up and I swear I went straight to hell with that phone call."

It is a hell from which this mother has yet to emerge, and a murder which police have yet to solve. Desiree was walking outside with a friend when a red car pulled up. Witnesses say three men were inside and at least 20 shots were fired. Desiree was hit twice.

Investigators say the Oakland Tech senior with dreams of becoming a veterinarian was not the intended target. They do not know the identity of the shooter. Both police and Desiree's family are convinced that other people outside that day do know, but they are not coming forward.

"It would really be helpful if people just overcame this stop snitching stuff because that's not getting anyone nowhere and people are still dying," said Desiree's sister.

As Desiree lay dying across the street from the Humanity Baptist Church, minister Lorenzo Franklin ran to her side.

"Nobody really knew what to do, so I just kneeled down and just immediately started to pray," said Franklin.

He did not witness the shooting, but he knows a neighbor who did. Days later, that neighbor moved away.

"Basically, they said, 'I'm scared.' And so my response was, 'Well, I understand that,' but you try to reason with them and say, 'Hey, if it was your daughter, if it was your sister, wouldn't you take the risk?'" said Franklin.

In the months since, someone came forward and claimed responsibility for Desiree's murder on MySpace, but police determined it amounted to nothing more than street bragging. They now say the key could be in locating the actual intended targets, but investigators believe they probably moved away, too, before authorities could find them.

"I'm so angry I can't see straight," said Dru Ann Davis. "As far as I'm concerned, they're just as guilty as the shooters."

The painful journey to the place where Desiree was shot is one her mother has made only a handful of times.

"People have given me a hard time about moving on, but it's not even a year yet," she said.

Moving on in a place where people may know who killed your daughter, but will not come forward, is almost impossible. Moving on in a city that was supposed to offer a better life, may be impossible, too.

"If you know what was going to happen down the road you wouldn't have taken that road? who knew," she said.

Who knew Oakland would be the place where this family of jazz greats would lose its soul.

"The streets have Desiree," said Desiree's mother. "They took Desiree and I don't want to be here anymore."

If you have any information on Desiree's murder, you are urged to call the Oakland police tip line at (510) 777-8814. Callers can remain anonymous.


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